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Psychopathogen – MetaStellar

As soon as we’d killed the brand new man — slit his throat and burned the physique — we walked down I-90, away from Northfield. The freeway wasn’t suffering from automobiles like within the motion pictures. It was largely empty, with a couple of crashes right here and there, or, extra continuously, automobiles pushed by individuals who stopped of their very own accord. Good Samaritans serving to somebody with a flat, solely to by no means get again of their automobiles.

Tucker led us together with his telephone, clunky head hanging down on a protracted neck. His was the one telephone nonetheless working, as a result of he had a set-up: a photo voltaic charger that plugged proper into the case. Even so, it wasn’t a lot assist. The map software program nonetheless labored, and some different unbiased satellite-based apps, however who knew how lengthy these would final?

Then there have been the misery indicators. Some had been pleas for assist: meals, water, drugs. Others had been guarantees of shelter, of group, of little bastions of virus-free life. We figured these had been traps. Why shouldn’t they be? Anybody who wasn’t sick was already lifeless. All the great ones had been gone a very long time in the past.

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(Picture supplied by Thomas Kent West)

Dannie walked subsequent to me, holding the child. The child was perhaps six, seven years previous. Up to now, we hadn’t gotten a phrase out of her. She’d been in Northfield after we stopped by way of, curled up outdoors the grocery store, eyes broad. We needed to assume her shell shock was real, seeing that she was one of many solely folks in Northfield left alive.

“New Orleans,” Dannie mentioned, “I need a beignet. And to see the French Quarter.”

“Too many individuals,” I mentioned, regardless that I knew I used to be being merciless. She needed a dream, not a lecture. “We must always stick with the Alabama coast. Then down into Florida.”

“I don’t wish to go wherever close to Florida. It was psychotic even earlier than the virus. What about Texas?” Dannie mentioned this by way of her masks, and the sound was muffled, distant. I regarded on the clean stare of the woman in Dannie’s arms, fascinated with how shut they had been. Practically head to head; simpler for a bug to unfold that manner.

I thought-about. “Heat sufficient for the winter. However too many weapons,” I mentioned.

She nodded silently. From the stand of pine bushes to our proper, a fall wind blew. It could be a chilly night time once more. Wolves — which had come down from the north, like us — would hurl their solitary cries into the starlit woods. We’d sleep in separate tents, not desirous to share air, and marvel if that may be the night time that we’d be picked off, like Jemma and Ricky. By wolves or worse.

After one other few hours, we got here to a fuel station. There was a pile of our bodies with bullet wounds positioned neatly of their foreheads, all lined up and wrapped in linen. We debated burning them and determined in opposition to it, as a substitute fanning out into the fuel station with weapons drawn. It was empty, hardly even looted. We crammed sacks with no matter we needed — sweet, cigarettes, booze, Twinkie’s, pork rinds — then ditched.

I stayed behind and raided the money register. Not that cash was any good anymore, but it surely felt good to carry. To have. Just a little token to remind myself that maybe the world may return to regular. An funding sooner or later.

That’s once I noticed the physique behind the counter: center aged man, wispy blonde hair, three chins and one enormous intestine. He stared lifelessly on the ceiling, a gaping wound between his eyes. I coated my mouth with a fabric; you would get sick from corpses, everybody nonetheless alive knew that. However the corpse itself wasn’t as troubling. As a substitute, it was the flyer taped to the person’s chest. A calling card.

In direction of the tip, that brilliant blue flyer had been ubiquitous. It learn:








I didn’t doubt that whoever killed the cashier had left that there as a merciless joke. Whoever it was, they had been most likely answerable for the corpses outdoors, too. Perhaps they had been already lifeless – perhaps they weren’t — however both manner, it was an excellent purpose to go away quick. I grabbed a couple of packs of American Spirits and ran out the door, bell jingling behind me.

Tucker was holding the child’s hand now, so I ran up behind Dannie and kissed her on her neck, pulling my masks down as I did. She flinched a bit of, then laughed, crinkling her neck. I may take my masks off round her, no less than. We had been one another’s particular person. If one among us was sick, we each had been. That was that.

“I’m frightened concerning the child,” Dannie mentioned, going critical.

“You suppose she noticed?” I requested.

“How may she not? She’s traumatized, not catatonic. The smoke would have proven for miles.”

“Then it’s an excellent factor we bought out of there,” I mentioned. I grabbed her hand. “Look, Dannie. We needed to get him. It was him or us.”

Dannie frowned. “Him or us,” she mentioned, “however how will we even understand it was him? That he killed Jemma and Ricky?”

“Who else may it have been?” I mentioned, “it could possibly’t be one among us, or we’d each have it. I believe we’d know if one among us become a serial killer.”

Dannie flicked her head ahead, whispered. “What about Tucker?”

I regarded as much as Tucker, head craned over his telephone. “I don’t suppose Tucker may have taken Rick, even when he was sleeping. After which dragged his physique off in order that we by no means discovered it? Take a look at his arms. He’s not that robust.”

Dannie frowned once more. “Perhaps it actually was wolves. After which we killed the brand new man for nothing.”

“It wasn’t for nothing. He was twisted. Did you see his eyes after we killed him? Whites all the best way round. That’s an indication. And that’s not me speaking, it’s the CDC. If we hadn’t burned him, we’d have gotten twisted too. And look — two nights with out the brand new man, and two nights with no new deaths.”

Dannie dropped my hand and tucked her arms to her chest. Her backpack – full of gear — rustled with every uneven step.

“Yeah,” she mentioned, “yeah, I assume. I simply want the child hadn’t seen it. I can’t think about what she should consider us.”

“From the look in her eyes, we’re not the worst factor she’s seen. Under no circumstances.”

We continued down the freeway till it bought darkish. In some way, electrical energy nonetheless lit up the distant billboards, promoting shit that no one would by no means want once more. Hair plugs and private harm legal professionals and vodka held by smirking fashions. All elements of a previous world. The worst one was a billboard of a cheerful household, vacationing by a lake, all smiles. Present Them You Love Them — Attempt Wisconsin Dells.

I puzzled what number of of these fashions had been nonetheless alive. I puzzled who killed them, or who that they had killed.

Lastly, we got here to a small roadside motel. I broke the lock with a kick, and we handled ourselves to snack bars and beer within the foyer. The pool was already slicked over with filth, so we didn’t swim, however the showers labored. Dannie and I rubbed the grime off of one another, then made love on the starchy sheets. It felt clean, routine. Like I used to be going by way of the motions. I attempted to recollect when making like to her had began to really feel like a chore.

Afterwards, she slept. I couldn’t, so I wandered the motel. I stared on the pool, peeked in empty bedrooms. Lastly, I got here again to the foyer. Tucker was there, charging his telephone. I pulled two bottles of beer from the fridge, cracked them open. Nearly with out pondering, I dumped a spoonful of white powder into Tucker’s drink. I handed it to him, sat. He drank deeply.

“Something new?” I mentioned, genially. He didn’t take his eyes from the telephone.

“A couple of indicators not removed from right here. Keep in mind that massive meetup they arrange within the chatroom? How folks needed everybody to go to town and attempt to re-establish a authorities?”

I nodded, sipped my beer. I watched Tucker drink once more from his bottle, happy. “Yeah? Did folks go?”

“A couple of,” Tucker mentioned, “all lifeless. Two separate sickos with semi-automatics blasted the group aside.”

“Yeesh,” I mentioned. I wasn’t stunned. Who could be? As a lot as I hated to say it, anybody silly sufficient to be in a crowd deserved it. They weren’t enjoying the sport proper.

Tucker completed his beer. He didn’t make a face when the rat poison went down. Solely grimaced barely, however Tucker had by no means been capable of maintain his liquor. His eyes batted, and he excused himself to mattress. He advised me he’d see me within the morning. I knew he was unsuitable, in fact. A part of me puzzled if he did, too. If he’d already figured me out and had drank the poisoned beer anyway. I knew Tucker was uninterested in enjoying the sport. Typically it was simpler to fold.

Subsequent was Dannie. She was nonetheless asleep in the identical place, legs splayed, bare. I let a hand caress the curve of her abdomen, ready for one thing — regret, remorse, concern — to point out its face. Nothing did. There was solely… boredom. A reminiscence, just like the pull of a drug, of holding the ability of life and demise. I’d felt it with Jemma and Ricky. I’d felt it once more once I tricked Tucker and Dannie into killing the brand new man, however that was a special form of enjoyable.

With Jemma and Ricky, it had been the rat poison first, then strangulation. I needed them weak sufficient to submit, however robust sufficient to battle. I appreciated the sensation of their necks wriggling underneath my palms. Jemma, who by no means checked out me twice, who solely had eyes for Ricky. Ricky, hedge fund supervisor earlier than the virus, good-looking and match and charming. However none of that mattered, now. None of that mattered once I snuffed the life out of him like a match into water.

I didn’t have to poison Dannie. She was too exhausted from a day of carrying the little woman to battle again. The pillow closed over her face in a good seal. She kicked in opposition to me for some time, however she was small. I used to be not. The battle in her made the kill even higher, and when it was performed, I lay on the mattress subsequent to her corpse, panting.

I had determined, earlier within the day, that I would go away the child. She was six, in spite of everything. Not a lot of a battle. Not very enjoyable in any respect, like these cats and canines I’d began with. However after the joys of Dannie and Tucker — I’d gone into his room and checked, simply to ensure there’d be the thick ooze of bloody vomit on his lips — I needed extra. The little woman wasn’t the primary drink of the night, or second. She was the one you knew you shouldn’t have however needed anyway.

Dannie — candy, motherly Dannie — had set her up within the room subsequent to ours. I listened on the door for some time, respiratory slowly, attempting to listen to her mild, excellent loud night breathing. Nothing. When my breath was calm sufficient that I felt I may enter undetected, I slipped into the shadowy room. Moonlight branched over the mattress, the place a small lump lay, sleeping soundly.

I stepped ahead, my breath rushing once more, rising quicker with anticipation. I nonetheless held the pillow I’d used on Dannie, and thought it was becoming to make use of it once more. Maybe the woman would scent Dannie’s hair and it could consolation her, in her final moments of concern and panic.

I noticed a tuft of her hair peeking beneath the comforter and smiled, drawing again the sheet.

But it surely was not the woman. As a substitute, it was a cat: mangled, neck twisted, paws reduce off and tossed on the bloody sheets like toys. I stared stupidly. Then I spotted, too late.

The slice roared up by way of me, from my ankles. Sharp metal severed the tendons there and I collapsed, unable to help my weight. That’s when the woman got here from underneath the mattress, scuttling like an insect, and drove the knife into my abdomen. As soon as, twice, 3 times. I grabbed at her, however she was quick, and her intelligent palms moved to my throat. My windpipe severed, and a sprig of arterial blood coated the woman’s impassive face.

I sank to the ground, wanting up at her. The whites confirmed all the best way round her eyes, making her seem like a doll, all porcelain and crystal. Greater than shell-shocked, I now realized. Twisted.

The woman checked out me. I didn’t count on her to say something. There was nothing to say. We’d been enjoying the identical sport, and I’d misplaced. It was good to know, no less than, that the sport would go on. I smiled, taking a bloody hand away from my throat.

She knelt, knife in hand. And, saying nothing, she started to chop.


This story beforehand appeared in The Different Tales podcast underneath the pseudonym Thomas X. Teller.
Edited by Marie Ginga

Thomas Kent West is an American speculative fiction author and the winner of the Rue Morgue “Artifacts of Horror” Contest, the Content material Flash Fiction Contest, and the Black Gap Leisure Brief Fiction Prize. His work has been featured on The Different Tales, within the Michigan Every day, and elsewhere. You possibly can learn extra of his work by visiting him on Twitter @ThomasKentWest,
@Instagram or at



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